Africa Chess: Interview with Amy Lee, partner at Millionaire Chess
We recently caught up with Amy Lee, one of the people behind Millionaire Chess. Amy Lee exemplifies the expression “go big or go home.” A self-made millionaire, Amy has spent her career devouring anything that captivates her attention. She built one of the first dollar store franchise chains in Vancouver, BC, and found success in high-end real estate development, banking, and restaurant management, all before deciding to retire at the age of 38.
Passionate about tackling new challenges, she instantly saw an opportunity in the Millionaire Chess Open and decided to “unretire” to take it on as her first project after travelling the world with her son for two years. Through her longtime friend Maurice Ashley, Amy saw the potential to bring chess into the mainstream eye, raising the game to a completely new level.
1. Please tell us Millionaire Chess. What is this about?
Millionaire Chess is the first open tournament in history to offer a guaranteed $1 million prize fund, but it’s really about so much more than that. We want to invite the chess community to come forward and show they want to see and participate in this kind of high profile tournament, we see all the time in Poker.
2. How did you get involved with Millionaire chess
Maurice Ashley is a long time friend and after many discussions, I saw how passionate he is about expanding chess and what a brilliant idea a new type of tournament is, not just commercially but also because we want to change the face of chess and bring it into mainstream. And as an entrepreneur, I like to choose ideas and be passionate about things that are innovative and groundbreaking.
3. I first heard about Millionaire Chess from GM Maurice Ashley. What are your roles and responsibilities with Millionaire Chess
My role is to deal with the commercial aspects of the company and bring my entrepreneurial instincts to building this into the first of many Millionaire Chess events.
4. Where are you based, city and country?
I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
5. Please tell us about your vision for Millionaire Chess
To change the way people think of chess tournaments and give players from all over the world an opportunity to test and reward their abilities in an exciting, stylish and professional format.
6. 20 years from now where do you see Millionaire Chess?
I see us as being a premium chess brand that is world renowned for offering a fantastic experience and taking high stakes chess to a higher level.
7. How will Millionaire Chess help to develop Chess in Africa.
By showing that there are significant financial rewards available in chess. I hope that this will encourage Africans to develop and become passionate about their chess skills so that one day we can host a Millionaire Chess event in Africa.
8.We have a new World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, who beat Vishwanathan Anand for the title. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s very exciting, Magnus has bought a new style and brilliance to chess at a young age. Couple that with being a great modern icon for aspiring players to look up to and you have a great chess role-model. I hope it encourages more people to play.
9. When did you start playing chess and how did you did playing?
I learned to play chess in summer of 2009 when I first met GM Maurice Ashley in Lake George, New York. It was fun because it reminded me of Chinese chess that my uncle used to play with me when I was a child.
10. What do you think is the right age to start playing chess and why?
I think 5 years old is a good age to start because chess helps train the brain to think logically and strategically. My kids started at this age.
11. Do you still take part in tournaments and if so, how often?
I am not a good enough of a player to join any tournaments.
12. Why would you encourage anyone to take up chess?
Simply because chess is a great game that anyone can take up at any time in their life at no cost and play anywhere in the world. People have been playing it for over 1,500 years so it’s clearly a captivating game!
13. What do you think it will take for Africa to have a world chess champion?
I hope that events like Millionaire Chess show Africans that there are real financial benefits and opportunities to pursue a career in chess and this encourages them to start playing when they are young, giving them a better chance to compete for the World Championship.
14. What can ordinary chess players do to support Millionaire Chess.
Just help us spread the word through social media, word of mouth, however they can. While clearly not everyone can afford to come to the first tournament, helping to make this tournament a success will in turn help the overall image of chess and promote further interest in a game we all love. (Maybe consider having local tournaments where the prize is a trip to the Millionaire Chess tournament…MC could donate accommodation??)
15. Putting one million dollars into chess is a very bold move. How sustainable is this?
It’s just simple math really, this is a player supported event and there is a cancelation clause that if 1500 people are not signed up by March 31/14, which would result in the event being canceled. My number one business principle is “go big or go home”. We need to make this an event that the world pays attention to.
16. What is the best way for chess fans and players to keep track of Millionaire Chess.
Through our website or FB or Twitter. Here are the links: